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We had a great stay at the Holiday Inn Resort Panama City Beach, Florida and we would not hesitate to return. It was my first trip alone with the kids, so finding a place that was kid friendly and easy for momma was SUPER important to me.
***(let me apologize ahead of time…this review is a little on the long side, but it is SUPER DETAILED…I wanted to give you every little snippet that I could think of, because I never know what little question a reader of a hotel review might be looking for the answer for)***
Holiday Inn has always been known as a family friendly hotel. From the very beginnings of this familiar hotel chain, Kemmons Wilson (the founder of Holiday Inn) wanted to create a place that was easy and comfortable for families with kids.
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After a frustrating family vacation, Kemmons Wilson came up with his vision for the initial Holiday Inn Hotels (much of which was so well put together that it would become industry standard for all hotels to come after.)
Kids staying free, a restaurant attached to the hotel, a swimming pool and other kid friendly amenities were new ideas at the time and they revolutionized the hotel industry.
Sorry for the snippet of hotel history above (I used to work for Holiday Inn, so I know a little more than average about the brand’s history), but the Holiday Inn Resort Panama City Beach lived up to all of those expectations and more.
Pools and Splash Pad
A big part of the reason that I had chosen this hotel was because of the setup of the pools/splashpad and beach. The resort has a great little kid pool (small and manageable, about 4 feet deep and shaded by palm trees) as well as a giant and impressive splash pad with slides and water dumpers/squirters.
The best part of the splash pad was the fact that it is completely enclosed by a fence with a gate and it had shaded sun loungers for parents. It was so nice to be able to let me guard down a little from my place on the edge of disaster, waiting for the little minions to make their break 😉
With the exception of the splash pad, all of the pools are old school 70’s era pools, so they were all to deep for my 3.5 year old to touch in, and they aren’t gated, so you really have to watch your kids closely to make sure they don’t jump into a part that is too deep.
I recommend bringing a swimming vest for safety to ease your mind (it was something that I had wished we had). It is not a substitute for close supervision, but can mean the difference between a little one who jumps into the wrong pool and is quickly fished out and scolded and a tragic situation.
The pool area featured great music during the day and in the evening (all of the rooms face the pool area, and the evening music didn’t go too late nor was it too loud, but if you are worried that it might bother you, ask for a room farther away from it.)
We didn’t try it as we had our own, but I also saw a sign that said that there were beach toys for rent from the pool attendant, so this might be something to check into if you don’t have space to carry your own and don’t want to buy yet another cheap set from Walmart that will inevitably break in 30 seconds.
The hotel has a pretty relaxed and kid friendly atmosphere, so the kids were tolerated in the hot tubs. The hotel has a giant 20 person hot tub, and no one seemed bothered about my kids being in there (they were well behaved, we didn’t go in with full stomachs and I let them know that there was to be no splashing).
We went in there one day when it was cold and rainy and even the heated pools weren’t cutting it, and the kids wanted to go in for a bit again the next day. It is right next to the splash pad, so probably not surprising to anyone that kiddos would be there, but it was nice to be able to spend a little time in there with them as I usually don’t get any hot tub time with them on vacation.
The resort offered super easy access to the beach right from the pool deck (just a short walk down a boardwalk). They had a nice foot wash station at the edge of the beach. There were also lockers there so you could leave some of your gear if if you had things that you wanted to keep handy but didn’t want t take to the beach (you need a key from the Security office located just off of the pool area).
The beach was clean with soft, white sand and they offered lounge chairs, umbrellas and cabanas for rent for those wanting more shade.
Now to the rooms. The hotel is a little dated, but not in a bad or gross way. There is a difference between dated yet well cared for/completely functional and dated/gross. This hotel is the former.
The rooms have all been updated to the current, fresh Holiday Inn standard, so the only thing that this meant for me was that the walls were stucco and were built more solidly than most of the hotel room walls that we see in newer properties and were much more soundproof (I saw our neighbor in the hallway and asked if they had been bothered by WW III going on in our room the last couple days and they hadn’t heard a peep!).
The rooms did have DVD players (we did not catch this online ahead of time, so we didn’t bring any DVD’s and the hotel didn’t provide them, but we rented a couple of movies from the Redbox at the Walmart down the street.)
The rooms also have a fridge and microwave, so it might be handy to have basic paper plates and utensils on hand (another thing that we would have brought had we known and planned better.)
I was nervous about feeding both kids for three days by myself. Our service in the restaurants was amazing. All of our servers were super helpful, and while it was still difficult to manage by myself, we survived and no one starved!
We ate dinner in the restaurant on one night, the food and service was great (a little overpriced, I thought, but it WAS good and resort food is always pricey. The kids ate free, so I didn’t mind.) They got my food to me quickly because they saw that I had the two little ones with me and when I had only eaten half of my meal by the time the kids’ patience was up, they quickly got me a box and got me out of there.
As a side note, I am always impressed when high chairs in restaurants are cleaned (I think that little details like that are a sign of good service) and the high chairs here were squeaky clean!
Other Notes on the Holiday Inn Resort Panama City Beach
Some other things to note: The parking lot is a little far away (under a tunnel and across the road) but they offered a golf cart to help you get too and from that circulated on a regular basis. Otherwise, the 5 minute walk was fine and I elected to take it most days to wear the three year old out.
Only one relatively small irritation to report – every other Holiday Inn that we have stayed at (including the one that I worked at for 7 years) had suggestions and menus for nearby restaurants at the front desk. I understand that they wanted to push their room service menu, but when I had driven for 5 hours and checked in after dinner with two little kids, I was desperate but I wasn’t about to pay room service prices for food that they would have probably taken three bites of.
I ended up hassling to find the menu for the delivery place online with two cranky kids, which I sort of feel was a customer service fail. A minor thing in the grand scheme, but it was SUPER frustrating at the time. So, you might want to research delivery options ahead of time and print out some menus at home if you think this is something that you might need.
So, a successful first adventure by myself with the kiddos, for which much credit can be given to the Holiday Inn Resort Panama City Beach Florida and its wonderful amenities and staff.
If you are thinking of staying here and you have any specific questions that I can try to answer, please feel free to comment below!